September 12, 2007

They Saw The Mission Through

Three weeks ago, seven soldiers serving in Iraq wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times outlining their opposition to the war and the new strategy employed by the Bush administration in 2007. Today, Editor & Publisher notes that two of the authors, Sgt. Omar Mora and Sgt. Yance T. Gray, died in an accident in Iraq on Monday:

The Op-Ed by seven active duty U.S. soldiers in Iraq questioning the war drew international attention just three weeks ago. Now two of the seven are dead.

Sgt. Omar Mora and Sgt. Yance T. Gray died Monday in a vehicle accident in western Baghdad, two of seven U.S. troops killed in the incident which was reported just as Gen. David Petraeus was about to report to Congress on progress in the "surge." The names have just been released. ...

The accident in Iraq occurred when a cargo truck the men were riding in overturned.

I didn't agree with the editorial, which I read only after a couple of commenters asked whether I would write a response to the piece. I didn't have much to write other than I disagreed with their analysis. I am absolutely sure that they wrote what they saw as the truth, and that their editorial represented their honest assessment of the mission from their perspective. In retrospect, I should have noted that at the time.

In a sense, this demonstrates the honor and commitment of the American military on an individual level. No one doubts that the mission has its detractors among the troops. Some, such as Omar and Gray, express those sentiments in well-written opinion pieces, while others share their disagreements only with close friends and family. Others see the situation differently and express themselves in the same manner. All of them, however, would say this as a conclusion:

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

That spoke volumes about all seven of the soldiers. It serves as an indication of the full measure given by Omar and Gray to a nation they loved, even while on a mission they felt would not be successful.


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Comments (31)

Posted by Sue | September 12, 2007 3:58 PM

My condolences to their respective families. If only the Left with their crazy cousins the "tinfoil hatted leftist loons" like Olbermann, Pelosi, Reid, Gore, Dean, Edwards, DailyKos, DU, Mydd, Huffpo, Soros to name just a miniscule number of the nuts could grasp the point of your post. They are cowards compared to the soldiers who spoke about their point of view and the two of them that died for this country. They should be revered, not the idiots listed above and their comrades.

Posted by John Wilson | September 12, 2007 4:04 PM

If a young person is serving in the military, they are more than entitled to their opinions, within the bounds of the military code. We may not agree, but that doesnt take away my respect and gratitude for their service and now their sacrifice.

Posted by Trump | September 12, 2007 4:15 PM

lets not get too carried away....they died in an accident, not an IED attack

Posted by Del Dolemonte | September 12, 2007 4:22 PM

I seem to remember that 7 OTHER soldiers in Iraq wrote a rebuttal to the original piece. But when they asked the NY Times to print it, Punch refused to do so.

Posted by docjim505 | September 12, 2007 4:23 PM

Ditto John Wilson. Well said.


They died in service to their country. Are they less dead because they died in a truck accident rather than an IED attack? Do their families deserve less condolences? Should we be less grateful that they were willing to put aside their personal views to serve in the armed forces and defend the rest of us?

Posted by Frank G | September 12, 2007 5:49 PM

God bless them. I don't agree either, but the fact that they were there serving makes their opinion more deserving of being noticed than my comment. Again, my thanks to them for their service to our nation

Posted by unclesmrgol | September 12, 2007 5:51 PM

What is sad is that the "fog of war" they wrote about extended even to their article. Over on alternet, their words were used as position justification at the same time as they personally were reviled:

The soldiers fighting in Iraq should not and nor should ever be admired- unless you are into praising the actions of serial killers.

Posted by Eric | September 12, 2007 6:20 PM

I am sad for their death. I am hopeful they will be proven wrong -- and I think they would pleased to be wrong.

Posted by Teresa | September 12, 2007 6:28 PM

Doc Jim -- Well said. Finally we agree on something.

Del -- Whether you believe the other editorial should have run in the NYT, surely you can conceed that these guys had no control over that and died in theatre for a war that you are pretty gung ho over. I think at the very least you could cut the snark.

Posted by Stephen J. | September 12, 2007 6:51 PM

Captain --

You represent one of the things that has drawn me to the right side of the blogosphere and to conservatism in general: Conservatives these days, if not that much shorter on general vitriol, seem far more willing to put vitriol aside in favour of respect in situations of crisis or loss.

Had these two soldiers and their colleagues written an op-ed affirming the war and then died in a similar accident, I am distressingly suspicious the left side of the blogosphere would have broken out in an orgy of Well-they-got-what-THEY-deserved-ha-ha!ing.

Posted by Pam | September 12, 2007 7:25 PM

I agree, Captain! These men were honorable in every way. I'm so gratful that there are men and women who will go, even when they don't agree, because they gave their word. I pray for their families!

Posted by Christoph | September 12, 2007 7:51 PM

Well put, Ed:

It serves as an indication of the full measure given by Omar and Gray to a nation they loved, even while on a mission they felt would not be successful.

I'm sure you would be the first to agree words do not equal their actions, but those were beautiful words and fitting to the men involved.

Posted by vnjagvet | September 12, 2007 8:04 PM

These young men had the courage of their convictions. Their points of view deserved to be heard. May God bless their families and friends and give them comfort and peace.

I remember many things happening in Vietnam that I thought were blunders on the part of our leadership. Such events are inevitable in a combat zone. In WWII, Bill Mauldin's cartoon soldiers Willie and Joe voiced the unspoken thoughts of many of our troops when they laconically revealed their superiors' foibles and the many discomforts of the battlefield.

Good combat commanders understand this. They know that griping and criticism in the ranks is necessary to release tension and cannot be avoided.

Those who voice their frustrations should not be honored any less for their service and sacrifice than those who suffer silently.

Posted by mcg | September 12, 2007 8:45 PM

My brother-in-law hates Bush with a passion. He'd string up Rumsfeld if he thought he could get away with it. He believes that the Iraqi people are beyond help.

And, he left his wife and 2 daughters behind to serve in Iraq twice.

He can have his opinions, and he can have my admiration too.

Posted by GoDaddy | September 12, 2007 9:33 PM

Regardless whether one agrees or disagrees with the NYT Op-Ed, I think all can agree that these men expressed their opinion in a manner befitting a professional organization and not the organization of high school dropouts as described by Sen. Kerry.

Our military ranks comprise the best of America and it is therefore not surprising that Americans view this same military with the highest levels of esteem.

It is always a sad day whenever we lose one of our own serving prayers are with their families, these were certainly courageous and noble men that all Americans can be proud of.

Posted by filistro | September 12, 2007 9:38 PM

mcg says: "My brother-in-law hates Bush with a passion. He'd string up Rumsfeld if he thought he could get away with it. He believes that the Iraqi people are beyond help. And, he left his wife and 2 daughters behind to serve in Iraq twice. He can have his opinions, and he can have my admiration too."

But if he posted his opinions here at CQ, you all would rip him to shreds. Wouldn't you?

Posted by red | September 12, 2007 10:18 PM

Hand Salute to our lost warriors.

Posted by unclesmrgol | September 12, 2007 10:27 PM


Not him. His arguments, his positions. There's a difference.

Posted by Russ | September 12, 2007 10:29 PM

It matters not whether or not we agreed with their stance. They died in service to the nation, and thus deserve our respect.

Trump - I doubt their families are any less bereaved b/c they died in an accident. Dying in a war zone, regardless of cause, is regrettable.

Posted by filistro | September 12, 2007 10:36 PM

uncle, indeed there's a difference.

In my observation, you are one who never resorts to personal attacks unless first attacked yourself... and even then, only sparingly and with dignity (and usually humor as well.)

Would that others could be equally restrained, and remember that we are here to dissect ideas... not the people who hold them.

Posted by Drew | September 12, 2007 10:51 PM

This allows me to say something that I have wanted to get off my chest for a bit:
A lot has been made about the Tillman death that he was killed by "friendly fire". That might be the specific; but, he was a casualty of an engagement with the enemy, and should be honored appropriately - as should all losses from so-called friendly-fire. When in a fire-fight, you're sometimes very fortunate not to get shot by your side (how many police gun-fights result in the cops shooting each other?).

These two men died in the performance of their duties, in a hostile zone; and, are to be honored appropriately.

Now, I can put on my tin-foil hat, tune into the DU/DK frequency, and get the marching orders for tomorrow: Yes, this "accident" was staged by BushHitlerBurton as retribution for these men speaking out. Trutherism prevails!

Posted by Montag | September 12, 2007 11:53 PM

If their Op-Ed piece had been Gung Ho you can bet the Captain would have read it and commented on it while all SEVEN soldiers were still alive. You can take that to the bank even on Sunday.

Posted by Okonkolo | September 12, 2007 11:56 PM

I just wanted to add that by the time their op-ed was published, another one of them had been shot in the head and is slowly recovering.

It was a remarkable op-ed, and I was disappointed that it came and went w/o comment here. You could tell they were pissed, not only by how badly things have turned out, but that they didn't have to be that way.

Posted by Nedra Lee | September 13, 2007 12:04 AM

I'm sure that the Army has honored Tillman in appropriate ways since finding out about the "way" he died... by friendly fire. Your post says your very bitter and I can't help that - except if you were to deep six the
BushHitler talk the days may be easier to bear.

Posted by Arthur | September 13, 2007 12:14 AM

I was wondering if the left-side would get all conspiratorial about this tragedy.


Note at the end of that there's a poll asking
'Do you believe that this was just an "accident"?'

Posted by docjim505 | September 13, 2007 8:47 AM

Somebody help me out: didn't Cap'n Ed post about the op-ed written by those soldiers? I seem to recall commenting on it. Perhaps it was at another site?

Posted by Captain Ed | September 13, 2007 8:55 AM


Must have been another site; I didn't post about it at the time.

Posted by Fred Beloit | September 13, 2007 10:20 AM

I commented on their op/ed at Riehl World. I noted that their op/ed read as if it were written by a PhD candidate in English Literature at Yale. I said the first words I ever heard from an Army Sergeant were: "We're gonna have a formation at 1730. Ever' swangin' richard gon be thar" and that things seem to have changed. I also chided them for their arrogance and hubris in deciding that they knew more about international relations than our elected officials and that they should get back to killing the enemy instead of trying to run the country. I called them stupid jerks. I have not changed my opinion one whit, but I'm heartbroken two of them are dead.

Posted by Anna Puna | September 13, 2007 10:56 AM

Well the conspiracy theory has hit dead tree edition with the mother of Mora as the subject.,21985,22414359-663,00.html

Sounds like a prisoner transport job that had a horrible accident. More than just two of the writers died in this accident, lets remember that. I will agree with her assertion that we need to know exactly what happened. Though I doubt it will stop the conspiracy minded from inferring all kinds of nefaroius things. The familes of those killed deserve a full accounting of this accident so they can start on closure and going forward.

Posted by docjim505 | September 13, 2007 12:07 PM

Fred Beloit,

Yes, I remember my sergeants' rather (ahem) basic and colorful vocab; Tom Wolfe refers to this as "Army Creole" in The Right Stuff.

That being said, I was a sergeant and I have an MS degree. It isn't uncommon at all for enlisted men and NCO's to have some college under their belts or completed degrees. Thus it doesn't surprise me when an enlisted soldier can write well (even if they DID graduate from a public high school).

Posted by Cathy | September 13, 2007 5:48 PM

Sgt. Omar Mora was my cousin. He loved his family very much. It doesn't matter how he died what matters is that our family will never see him walk through the door again. His wife will not have him home each night and his five year old daughter will never see her dad again. His mother is dealing with the fact that her son has left this world before her. His mother brought him to this country from Equidor when he was two years old to give him a better life and to live the American dream. Omar just received his U.S. citizenship a few weeks ago and now has died for this country that he truly loved. He will be greatly missed by his entire family.

Thank you for the blessings.

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